The Pope Knows ~ Top 10 Life Hacking Tips

The Pope knows – not to be confused with the Pope’s nose, a dubious delicacy from my Canadian childhood aka the icky, chewy, crunchy part of a chicken’s other end.


Photo: L’Osservatore Romano/File/AP./ Published: 06/7/2014

I’m not Catholic. I’m not even much for organized religion of any kind, but I have a bit of a crush on this Pope. He’s a charmer with a huge heart. And he’s not only cute, but this man appears to understand a thing or ten about life and happiness. The world may already be swimming with self-help advice, but it’s not every day the Pope himself shares his life-hacking tips.

Here’s what the Pope knows for sure ~

1. “Live and let live.”
2. “Be giving of yourself to others…If you withdraw into yourself, you run the risk of becoming egocentric. And stagnant water becomes putrid.” Continue reading

Female Nomads ~ retired women are taking to the open road

My friend Lois is a nomad.  She’s also single and pretty much retired.  Lois doesn’t have a huge income or the security of a well-stocked trust fund.  And yet, Lois has one of the richest, fullest lives of anyone I know.  This delightful, spirited woman lives in a 10 foot 1965 vintage Aloha trailer that she pulls with her aging Mercury Montero.  Freedom?  Oh my! She’s got that in spades.  A couple of weeks ago, Lois waved goodbye to Portland’s rainy winters and headed south with “Li’l Homey”.   She shares her travels and nomad lifestyle on her blog Playing a New Game.  Thank you Lois for  inspiring the gypsy hiding in me.Lil Homey

These days more and more senior single women are taking up life on the road.  They are firing up the RV or hitching up the trailer to explore the highways and back roads all across the country.  They are creating new communities and making friends as they go.  And, while there are are some very interesting challenges in this lifestyle, these gals are rising to the challenge and loving their new home on the road.

If you are feeling the call of the open road as a retirement option, check out these very informative links for more information and a some stories that are guaranteed to make you smile

Unlikely Nomads ~  the Christian Science Monitor

Happy End of the Road for RVers – Assisted Living on Wheels ~ AOL Real Estate

And, finally, if you are not sure the RV life is for you, perhaps you like to give it a try for a night or two in one of the beautiful vintage trailers at the Shady Dell Resort in Arizona or one of the eight cuties available in Bend, Oregon at Cowgirl Cabins.

Who’s in for a Wild Women’s Weekend this summer at Cowgirl Cabins?  Sounds like fun, doesn’t it.

See you on the road.


Walking the Camino de Santiago ~ unexpected challenges

caminodesantiagoMarlyTours2 “Few people know how to take a walk.  The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, and eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much…”     Ralph Waldo Emerson

My heel hurts!

It started a week ago.  Of course it did.  Because, in exactly one week, hubs and I will be starting the first day of our Camino de Santiago walk.  We’ve been walking pretty much every day since last May.  Some days only a couple of miles (3 times around the mall if its raining) and on weekends longer, hillier, harder walks that topped out at 12.5 miles.  Hubs overcame a toe problem and a back problem and he’s fine.  Me.  I had nothing – until now. 

Really though, we both feel great!  Strong, healthy and ready to go.

Except for the heel.  What the heck?!  I’ve been resting it this week and doing a lot of stretching because I’ve self diagnosed it (I do have some experience here) as  plantar fascitis.  Beyond that, there is really nothing I can do at this point.  It’s out of my control.

Except to trust.   And do the best I can.  And…wait for it… know that it’s okay if I have to ride in the sag wagon.  But I won’t.  I’ll make hubs carry me.

One of the priorities of the Camino is finding your own rhythm.  It’s been said that “We don’t do the Camino we want to do, we do the Camino we are able to do.”  A lot like Life.

I don’t know how my heel’s going to react to the long daily walks, but here’s what I do know for sure.  This walk is not about how I do it or how long it takes or how fast I finish.  It is all about marking a milestone moment in my life and I intend to savor every minute, including the pain if there is any.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that the twinges in my heel are reminding me to slow down.  Pay attention.  Be fully present on this journey.  And trust that it will be perfect and just the way it was meant to be.

One step at a time, I’m ready to walk my Camino.

If you are a walker or runner, here’s some great information about the care and feeding of feet I found on the WOW (Wonders of Walking) website.

See you on the road.




Becoming a Backpack and Rollie Retiree ~ Spanish Lessons

¡Vamos a hablar en español!

Call me crazy but I’m not particularly fond of making a fool of myself in public.  I did it a lot in my twenties and thirties and yes, there was usually some amount of alcohol involved.  But, even so, it’s one thing to wear silly hats or put straws up your nose and another thing entirely to trot yourself out with four whole weeks of Spanish learning under your belt and walk into a room with a dozen fluent speakers so that you can engage in conversation.

That’s exactly what I did last night.  What the hell was I thinking?  And, no, there was no alcohol involved, but in this case it would probably have helped.  A lot!

We’re traveling to Spain next month.  We’ve spent time in Mexico and hope to spend lots more time in that lovely country.  And I’m exploring a whole bunch of South American cities for future travels and possible retirement living.  So it seems like at least one member of the Backpack and Rollie Team should attempt to learn the language. spanish now

Before our last San Miguel stay a few years ago, both hubs and I signed up for beginning Spanish at our local community college.  If you’ve never heard Spanish with a strong Boston accent, you’ve missed something quite special.  Hubs lasted a few weeks and quietly became too busy.  I hung in there a little longer but found it boring and not at all applicable to two adults trying to carry on normal life.  I didn’t need to learn my way around a classroom, I needed to be able to converse with the shopkeepers, the bus driver and the woman sitting next to me in the Starbucks (You know there was one and I found it.)

I quit the class, but held on to the dream.  I have a very clear vision of myself chatting away en español.  Time to give it another go.

Lecciones de español segunda ronda.  Enter the lovely and talented Clara Grabel who comes from Argentina and gives Spanish lessons to eager gringos like me.  Clara makes learning easy and fun.  I love that in a teacher.  So, in early July Clara and I had our first lesson.  It was great!   I was on my way.  Then came week two and it was like a scene from the movie Groundhog Day.  I was starting from square one all over again.  Week three, pretty much the same.  Oh, I have few words I can usually remember.  I’ve mastered some of the basic verb and grammar concepts, and I can get the general idea and answer questions when I’m reading, but let me just say that learning a new language with an aging brain feels a bit like I’m pouring flour through a sieve.  Not much seems to be sticking.

Of course, everyone knows that you will never learn to speak a language if you aren’t actually speaking it.  A lot!  I knew that, but I didn’t really want to do that.  The thought thoroughly terrified me.  I knew my brain would freeze and none of the 25 simple words I actually knew would pop up when I needed them.   And, as I said at the beginning – I am not fond of making a fool of myself in public.

But, this time I felt the fear and went anyway.  And I did make a fool of myself.  And I did have a moment of sheer terror when one of the young men from Mexico turned to me and asked me several questions and I had absolutely no idea what he said.  Not one word.  All eyes were on me.  It was a deer in the headlights moment.  I froze.  I turned 50 shades of red and then I mumbled “No comprendo.  Yo estudio español por quatro semanas solamente.”  I’m sure the grammar wasn’t correct, but he smiled and nodded and then another person came to my rescue asking me “¿Donde vive? (where do I live?) “Yo vive en Beaverton.”  “¿Tiene Familia?”  (do you have family?)  “Si, tengo un esposo y dos higos.”  “¿Tiene animales?”  “Tengo un gato.” (I have a cat) Como se llama?  “Se llama Mr. Ricardo y es gordo.” (his name is Mr. Ricky and he is fat).

Okay, this is not a conversation that is going to take me very far in Spain or Ecuador, but I did it.  I had a (very strange) conversation with a complete stranger that didn’t involve asking for a beer, the bathroom or the check.

And, everyone in the room agreed that I did quite well with only a month of lessons.  I’ll take it!  I was humbled but also rather proud of myself for going so far outside of my comfort zone.  And next week when I go back, I’ll see if I can’t come up with something a little more interesting to talk about.  I listened, I learned, I shared and I had a great time.

And it gets better.   I found another conversation group that includes margaritas and chips and salsa.  I think I’ll check that one out as well.

¡Con mucho gusto!


Moving into Retirement ~ Have I got a deal for you!

Everything must go!

Everything must go!

We’re at it again.  Moving stuff out of our current life to make space for our new life ahead.  For the past month, we have been up to our shoulders in boxes, bags, piles and more piles.  Like olden day explorers we’ve been searching through dusty corners, under stairs and deep into the dark cavernous storage room to dig out long forgotten treasures (and a LOT of what were we thinking trash).  Hubs’ everything must go mindset had faded slightly since his initial eBay ferver of last year, but he quickly sprang back into action.  This man loves to sell things.  Price is no object.  You want it for $5.00?  Sold!   Apparently none of our long-held treasures are going to add much “fluff” to our thin retirement nest egg.

Note to self – Get over it and move on because now that the actual Leap Date is set, everything really does have to go.

We started with participation in our community garage sale.  In my humble opinion, the garage sale should be the second to last stop on the downsizing trail, just ahead of taking it to the Goodwill.  I found the entire process irritating and slightly demeaning.  I also found myself taking things off the table and putting them back in the house.  I developed a somewhat Jeckyl and Hyde personality as the very long day wore on.  I would give things to kids, but when someone wanted to pay $3 for a perfectly good item worth $50 that I was selling for $10, I found myself saying NO!  Because I would rather give it to Goodwill.   There was absolutely no logic to my madness but these people were irritating me and somehow offending my “stuff”.  Go figure.  Hubs thought I had lost my mind.   Garage Sale Day could not end quickly enough for me.  When we celebrated later with a frosty beverage and counted our fistful of dollars, I shouted a hearty “NEVER MAKE ME DO THIS AGAIN!”

Next up was Craigslist.  You have to find the right venue for what you have to sell.  I had tables, chairs, 88 champagne flutes, wine glasses and plates left over from the Flourish event days.  I made several young couples who were planning summer weddings very happy.  That made me very happy.  Win/Win.  I like you Craig – and your List worked perfectly.  Although if anybody needs a 3 section electric buffet chaffing dish with domed lids used only once, please call me. BugsBunnyS&P

But Craigslist doesn’t work for everything.  Try selling your Bugs Bunny as Carmen Miranda salt and pepper shakers on Craigslist and … Hear the crickets chirping?  Nothing.  Nada.  Nobody cared.

On to eBay.  Hubs is the King of eBay so I’m turning Bugs, the Pillsbury Doughboy and all the others over to him for disposal.   Oops, I mean sale.  A little research on ebay showed the Bugs/Carmen S&P might bring as much as $60.00!   Fred Flintstone riding Dino was around $35.00 and the Mary Englebreit Cherries a whopping $25.00.  Whoo Hooo!

Nobody’s getting rich here.  That’s for sure.  But we are really clearing and cleaning.  Big time.  We’re sending our treasures out into the world to make other folks happy for a while.  And maybe that was the point I’ve been missing all along.  It’s not really “mine”.  I’ve just been borrowing it anyway.  Let someone else find pleasure in it.  That’s where the richness truly is.

I love this story!  It is indeed a very small world and we are all connected in more ways than we can imagine.   Here’s hoping some of our recently departed stuff has many more interesting journeys ahead.  Just like us.



It Still Takes a Village ~ a really cool option for aging in place

This week I had another NPR Driveway Moment.  If you listen to public radio, a driveway moment is when a conversation on your car radio is so interesting that you actually continue to sit in the car in the garage or the driveway until it’s over because it’s just too good to miss.  I love a good driveway moment.

With my 65th birthday looming on the very near horizon and my recent proclaiming of my Leap Day to retirement, it’s safe to say that the whole process of living out whatever years I have left in this particular go-around has been on my mind.  In the short term, it’s about staying fit and healthy, downsizing, scraping together all our pennies and coaxing them to miraculously multiply and looking at ways we can spend the next few years traveling and exploring other countries and cultures.  All good stuff, but there’s also the longer view.  What happens when we can’t, or no longer want to be retired gypsies.   At some point, we’ll have to settle down, settle in and settle for a much quieter existence.  Oh, NO! Not the HOME!

Actually, I’m pretty sure we won’t be able to afford assisted living.  At least in the U.S.

And that’s how I came to this particular driveway moment.  The show was about the Village movement for elders that has been quietly springing up in towns and cities across the United States, Canada and is slowly spreading to other parts of the world.  The idea for the first village came from the brilliant minds of a group of folks in Boston’s Beacon Hill area who were facing retirement and wanted to explore creative and affordable options that would allow them to age in place – literally living in their own neighborhoods and homes.  In 2002 they founded Beacon Hill Village and it has become a model for other villages.  These “villages” are springing up everywhere.  There is one in the planning stages in Northeast Portland.  Another in Ashland, Oregon. In fact, there are more tha 70 village networks in the U.S.  From Maryland to Michigan elders are banding together and creating exciting alternatives to assisted living facilities.

The village concept begins with the simple idea of bringing services to the people rather than people to the services.  Each non-profit village is independently created and functions with a board, a small staff and many volunteers.  Instead of paying thousands per month, you pay between $200 – $1000 a year to become a member.   The village system offers transportation to doctor appointments and the grocery store, yard work, home repair, and other services (usually for a discounted fee, but sometimes at no charge by a volunteer).  There are social and educational offerings, as well as fitness classes – all with transportation provided.  Each village is unique to its residents.  I smiled at the comment made by a women from the Village to Village Network.  “Most people think if you’ve seen one village you’ve seen them all, but the truth is – If you’ve seen one village, you’ve seen ONE village.”  They are created by the people, for the people.

I absolutely love this idea.  A little help when it’s needed.  The social contact that keeps our minds lively and our spirits and bodies healthy.  Dignity still firmly intact.  If it takes a village to raise a child, it seems like a perfectly wonderful idea that grandma and grandpa create their own village to grow old in.

We’re not ready to become Village People yet, (sorry I had to fit that in someplace)  but it gives me peace of mind to know that when the time gets closer, we have options.  Maybe even options that won’t break the bank.  More research is definitely in order.

If you have experience with this type of elder village or other unique ways seniors are finding to age gracefully and less expensively, please share them.  This is important information!  Aging minds want to know.







Passion + Purpose = One Powerful Grandmother ~

          An international grandmothers movement is underway.               Grandmothers have never worked so universally and effectively for social, economic, and political justice.

I’m honored to have been invited to participate in a blogging campaign in support of Grandmother Power.  I am truly inspired by the women I know personally and those I read about or see in the media who are so passionately and so creatively and often so quietly taking actions big and small that are making our world a better place for our children and grandchildren.  This powerful movement is sweeping around the world and I want very much to be a part of it.  Count me in!

I thought it would be fun to post grandmother stories all week.  Stories by grandmothers, stories about the unique joy of being grandmothers, and stories of amazing and brilliant grandmothers who have not only inspired me and changed my life, but are using their grandmother power to light the way for so many others.

I say we start with amazing and brilliant ~

Paola in Kenya  Photo credit - Norma Adniambo

Paola in Kenya
Photo credit – Norma Adniambo

I don’t think there could be a better way to kick-off our week of celebrating the power of grandmothers everywhere, than to share some insights, experiences and words of wisdom from Paola Gianturcothe powerful grandmother and creative force behind Grandmother PowerPaola has opened our eyes and our hearts with her beautiful photographs and powerful stories of women making a difference all over the globe.   I’m excited to share Paola’s story, in her own words, of how she made the leap from exhausted executive to her brilliant and powerful Second Act as a photojournalist.  She is truly an inspiration to so many of us who are still trying to figure out what’s next.

Nancy:  Paola, women over 60 are a huge untapped resource in the world.  For many of us, some time after 50 is when we finally begin to find our true voice and start to feel those first twinges that maybe there’s something more we are here to do.  What words of wisdom and advice are you able to share as someone who felt that call and followed your heart?

Paola: After 35 years in marketing, advertising, public relations and corporate communications, I decided to teach too…and at the end of one year, I’d earned two years worth of money (bought myself a year), had one million frequent flier miles (could fly and stay virtually anywhere free), and I was exhausted!

At 55, I had been walking on Mount Tamalpais (Mill Valley, Calif.), asking myself “What next, what now?” without answers. I decided to take a year off and do only what I loved most (photography and travel in the developing world) and wanted to learn next (about women’s micro-businesses). My “one-year sabbatical” became my first book and a second career: documenting the lives of women all over the world.

Nancy:  What inspired you most on this journey?

Paola:  I was inspired by the strength and stories of women everywhere. At first, I worried that the women I interviewed would see me as so different from them that they wouldn’t tell me anything.  But in fact, people don’t travel to listen to the women I met (who were mostly rural, mostly poor, mostly ill educated) and they told me things I would never have asked. Like all of us, they wanted to be witnessed and wanted their voices to be heard.

Sharing a laugh with women in South Africa in 1996. Photo credit - Toby Tuttle

Sharing a laugh with women in South Africa in 1996.
Photo credit – Toby Tuttle

Nancy:  How has the path unfolded for you?

Paola:  Having worked in large corporations where I’d learned to set objectives, define strategies and tactics and “make it happen,” I was amazed how my life unfolded. Each step was one that I couldn’t possibly have planned. For example, the books developed out of each other. As I packed my cameras having interviewed embroiderers in the desert of Gujarat, one said, “Come back in the fall and we’ll teach you the dances we perform all night to honor the Mother God.” I did, and that experience turned into my next book, Celebrating Women.

Nancy:  What kind of support did you have and how did you reach out to create a new network?

Paola:  I  have a husband who had two million frequent flier miles of his own, which he gave me.  That made it possible to do more books. Lots of husbands wouldn’t have liked it that their wives travel alone for weeks at a time, but David cooks for himself and does his own laundry even when I’m home. When he got lonesome, he began working at a drugstore in the evenings (husbands have thought of worse things to do while their wives are away!) And he has always cheered me on. Because I was stepping into a whole new career, David was my “support-network” at the beginning.

Nancy:  You left the corporate world to step back from stress and exhaustion.  It looks like you have ramped up a very busy life again.   Are you able to keep a good work/life balance these days or are you happiest when you are going 120 mph?  I think that word “balance” is very different for each of us.  What does it mean to you?  What do you do just for fun?

Paola:  Busy is not necessarily the same as stressful. if you’re doing something you feel passionate about, you can go 120 mph without even noticing it! (People ask why I don’t have an assistant, but I can’t imagine giving away such fun.) I recognize that my life is not for everyone, and my idea of fun is unique.

I love traveling to places most people don’t go and sitting on the floor of huts listening to interesting people. It is creatively challenging to photograph them well; I am always learning and growing.  For each book, I may travel over three years, taking a number of 3-5 week working trips. I shoot in the early morning and late afternoon when the light is good, interview mid-day, and write after dinner. By now, I’ve worked in 55 countries.

Paola with Iranian Students in 2008 Photo Credit - Nancy Williams

Paola with Iranian Students in 2008
Photo Credit – Nancy Williams

Drafting each book takes a year and during that time, I am a hermit. I get up, go to the computer, get up and go to bed. My “break” is to watch the rainbows that spin from the prism in my office window every afternoon and I marvel at how lucky I am to get to do challenging, difficult, important work.

The last few months before a book is released are very demanding: working with the editor and designer, writing the website and working with the web designer, creating direct mail pieces, arranging book tour details, creating slide presentations, planning press with the PR people. In the midst of that crunch, I always vow that I will figure out a calmer way to handle those four months next time. But I haven’t yet.

Promoting the book is a different kind of fun. My books are all philanthropic projects so selling books means raising money for causes I care about: 100% of my author royalties from Grandmother Power go to African grandmothers raising children orphaned by AIDs. My work has meaning and purpose.

For relaxation? I read. I watch movies with my husband. I play with my Grand Girls. Swim. Go to the gym (without which, at age 73, I’m convinced that none of the rest would be possible).

Nancy:  Did becoming a grandmother create a new lens through which you see the world?   How so?  Were your grandchildren the inspiration for your latest book?  What do you hope this book will achieve?

Grandmother Power -  Paola at home with her girls

Grandmother Power – Paola at home with her girls

Paola:  Because I am a grandmother, I wondered what grandmothers were doing other places. I discovered an unheralded, international activist grandmother movement, full of women who thought (as do I) that this troubled world is just not good enough for anybody’s grandchildren.

Grandmother Power, was inspired by African grandmothers who were raising children orphaned by AIDS. I met so many of them when I was working there in 2006 that I left convinced that grandmothers hold the future of the continent in their hands.

Grandmothers today are younger, better educated, healthier and (in the Global North) more career-experienced than they have ever been. As Boomers become Grands, they (who came of age in the 1960’s) know they can change the world because they did. In other words, the days of the “knitting, tatting, rocking-chair-ridden grandmother” are long gone.

But many grandmothers in the US are not yet part of the international activist grandmother’s movement, perhaps because they don’t know about it. And that’s a waste of a lot of urgently needed talent.

Nancy:  I want to be part of the Grandmother Power Movement and I am sure lots of women reading your story will as well.   How can we get involved?

Paola:  I hope Grandmother Power will inspire those who are not yet engaged to collaborate to make the world a better place. To start, join, support and network with grandmother groups. I’m convinced it will take all of us, Grandmothers and GrandOthers, working together, to create hope and possibility for our world.

Nancy:  In your book, Grandmother Power, you photographed and interviewed grandmother groups all over the world.  What is your process for locating your subjects, making contact, establishing rapport and getting to the heart of their story?

Paola:  I do preliminary research on as many as 70 different groups, then select 15 that, together, present a balanced variety of issues, ethnicities and geographies. (I make sure the groups are on the United Airlines routes so I can fly there free!)

I email the head of each group, describe my concept, and ask if the organization would like to participate. When I arrive, my interpreter and I meet with the group’s leader, and decide whom I will interview and when. My interpreters are almost always local women; their English may not be perfect, but bringing in a well-educated “city woman” as interpreter is a nonstarter; no one will talk.

I begin every interview by showing pictures of my family and showing my books so the woman will understand who I am and what she’s getting into. I never take pictures until after she has talked for at least an hour and I have a sense of who she is and what pictures might reveal her world. The interviews feel like conversations, although I explore areas I’ve defined carefully in advance. At the end, I always invite the woman to ask whatever she wants to ask me. Turn about is fair play!

Because it’s important to me to represent the women well, I send every chapter draft to the interpreter to read to each woman so she can correct any factual inaccuracies.

Nancy:  Do you develop lasting friendships with some of the women you interview or follow up on their lives after your time together?   I’m sure each meeting touched you in different ways.  Have you seen any direct impact of your stories on their lives?

Paola:  Yes, I stay in touch with many of the leaders of the groups that are featured in my books, and feel blessed by their friendship.

Paola with Yasmina in Panama in 1997 Photo Credit - TobyTuttle

Paola with Yasmina in Panama in 1997
Photo Credit – TobyTuttle

And yes, I have been astonished and awed, to see the direct impact of my books on women’s lives.  For example, I went back to India to work not long after a catastrophic earthquake and saw all the women in one village rebuilding their huts with funds wired by a reader of my first book. I was so touched that I wept.

Nancy:  What’s next?  Do you have more stories to tell through your photographs and books or do you have other visions to conquer and roads to explore?

Paola:  I always have a file of ideas of what to do next. I won’t open that file until January 2014. Until then, Grandmother Power is where the action is. For example, The Grand Rapids Public Museum in Michigan will present a Grandmother Power exhibit from September through December 2013.

Nancy:  And, I finally a much more lighthearted question – If you were a pair of shoes, what kind would you be and why?

Paola:  “Strappy black sandals, flats. I’m comfortable being casual and being fancy—and summer is my favorite time of the year.”

Thank you, Paola.  Your purpose and passion have inspired me once again.  My mind is buzzing with ideas!


Dining in the Dark ~ an adventure for the senses

Right hand on left shoulder, right hand on left shoulder, right hand on left shoulder.   That is exactly what it took to shuffle our little conga line of ten into the dining room.  We were following our waiter who tapped the way with his white stick.  The light dimmed and as we turned the last corner and walked through the black drape, we were plunged into total darkness.  I could literally not see the nose on my face.

Our waiter led us to our table, my husband was at the head of the line and the waiter put his hand on the back of the first chair.  He then felt for the second chair and put my hand on the first.  I turned and did the same for my friend in line behind me and so on down the line until my husband ran into the wall and knew he had found the last seat.  Somehow all ten people on our side of the table found our seats.

We had entered the dining room of the Blind Cafe – a roving dinner in the dark event that is the brainchild of Brian Rocheleau, a musician from Boulder, Colorado.   We had also entered, for the next two hours, the world of people who cannot see – ever.  People who live and work and thrive in a world that is often literally completely black.   And that’s how I chose to celebrate my birthday a couple of years ago.   It was a truly unique experience.

Once we all settled in at our table, we were instructed to feel around and find our plates, knives, forks, napkins and cups on the table and then locate the larger bowls that we would pass and serve.  I thought I was doing pretty well when I determined that the cool and slightly sticky log on my plate was some sort of salad roll.  So far so good.  Oops!  Not so good when it turned out I had been fondling the salad roll on the plate of the person sitting across from me!  At least no one saw me do it.  What surprised me was that at first I felt extremely claustrophobic.  The room seemed to close in around me and sound amplified.  I was uneasy and I could hear my own heart beat in my ears.  As I relaxed and began to realize that I could do this, everything changed.  I chatted with people across the table.  I had no idea who they were or what they looked like.  There was certainly no room for snap judgments or “OMG did you see her dress” comments.  Couldn’t see.  Did not matter.

We felt our way through a delicious vegetarian dinner.  We figured out how to pass and serve.  How to orient our forks to the food on our plate and then get it to our mouths.  It took a few tries.  It is true that when you lose one sense the others pick up the slack.  Texture and taste, hot and cold took on new meaning with each bite.  And smell!  Dessert was an amazing chocolate mousse with blueberries.   Never has chocolate smelled so divine.   Our waiters were all blind and had very insightful stories to share including Gerry Leary, a former mechanic, who shared his experience of creating a coffee roasting company and restaurant in Boulder called the Unseen Bean.  Rosh and his band One Eye Blind performed during dessert offering one more treat for the senses.  I had no idea where the music was coming from, what the room looked like, where anyone was seated other than the few people directly around me, but someone about an hour into the experience, it all felt normal, comfortable even.

I read recently that blind dining restaurants are all the rage in several European cities.  One of the first, Blindnekurh, originated in 1998 during the “Dialog im Dunkeln” (Dialogue in the dark) exhibition at the Zurich Museum of Design. The focus was to give sighted people an insight into the experience of being blind. The idea for blindekuh (blind cow) emerged because of the great enthusiasm shown by visitors and the opportunity to create jobs for visually impaired people.  What a lovely and brilliant idea.  Walk a mile in my shoes or eat dinner with my eyes, certainly helps us understand and bond with our fellow man.

(video courtesy of current tv)

I highly recommend you try dining in the dark at least once.  Rosh and his team have produced Blind Cafe concert, community and dinner events in Boulder, Austin, Portland, Seattle and San Francisco.  The dinner we attended raised money PAWS (Pups at Work for Sight).  I loved it so much that I volunteered the next time they came to Portland.  It was an eye opening experience!

For a slightly different dining adventure, Opaque recently opened blinding dining restaurants in the U.S. with locations in San Francisco, San Diego, Dallas, New York and Los Angeles.  For my LA friends – check it out at 2020 Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica.

Forget dancing in the dark.  These days it’s all about dining in the dark.

Bon Appetit!









Why I love of the Internet + A Few Fun Statistics

IMG_1440 [pinterest]

I started blogging almost ten months ago.  Who knew I had so much to say?   Certainly not me.  I published my first post on March 2nd, but I didn’t share my blog with the rest of the world until a few months later.  I was afraid people would think I was more than a little crazy.  I was scared they would hate my writing or not be interested in what I had to say.   I was terrified that I would quickly run out of ideas.   So much for fear.  This time, I looked fear in the eye and I went for it anyway.  I am so glad it did!  Blogging has opened up my world and helped me set a new path for adventure in our retirement years.  And, as I’ve shared my stories, I hope I made a few folks smile or inspired you say yes to some new adventures of your own.

At the end of each year WordPress, the site where Just a Backpack is hosted, compiles all your blog stats in a nice little annual report.   I thought I’d share a few of the more interesting numbers with you.

  • Almost 7,000 people viewed Just a Backpack
  • Viewers came from 78 different countries.  Most from the US, Canada and Great Britain, but people from Kenya, Qatar, Monaco, Syrian Arab Republic, Israel, Spain and even Kazakhstan found the blog.  I think that is amazing.
  • I published 89 posts and uploaded 318 photos.  So much for having nothing to say.
  • 486 comments.  (I love comments.  Keep them coming!)
  • The most popular post was Whirled Peas on December 14.  Rounding out the top five were Jonseing for a Little Chocolate, Bicycle Built for Two, Doors of Mexico and SWOOF’n It.  (You can click on the highlighted titles and read if you missed them the first time.)
  • My personal favorite was Two For the Road.  It sums up my hubs and I perfectly.

For a little blog that started on a whim, I think it’s all pretty darned amazing.   Let me say again that I am so happy that my friend Al Gore invented the internet.  It’s changed my world.

I can’t wait to see where this road leads in 2013.  Buckle up, because it’s going to be one heck of a fun ride!

Read any good books lately?

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